Someone asked me why I post my workout photos on Instagram.
“Why do you do that? I’m curious what it’s for. I just don’t really understand why you do it.”
To be honest, I felt defensive.
“Why do you care what I post to Instagram? Does that bother you for some reason? Swipe on, if you don’t like it!”
Upon further reflection (see also: psychoanalysis) I have arrived at a very delayed reply.
And it’s a little heavy. So, if you keep reading, you’ve been warned.
Something you have to understand about me, first and foremost, is I don’t do well with being the soul focus of a lot of attention. The people closest to me know I’d rather be the wallpaper in your room than the center of attention for a group of people. Just today on a video work call, I got (what was intended as) a compliment about how I seem to always look “just so” (“Brittany your hair always looks so put together. Like you could walk into a photo shoot!”). I wanted to crawl under the table where my laptop sat and die. I realize people mean it as a kindness. I just don’t know what to do with it. I don’t know what to do with my hands. I don’t know what to say. I usually try to deflect or play it off and steer the attention literally anywhere else. I just want to hang out and chat and be the girl next-door you never really notice. I’ll be the first and loudest cheerleader you’ll ever have but I don’t receive it well for myself.
I digressed a little here. I simply share the above to say: I don’t post my workout photos on Instagram as a cry for attention or to tout, “Looky here! Look at me! Check me out!” That’s so far from the truth. But, and not that I owe it to anyone to explain or defend it, I do see how it could read that way.
So here is the fine print:
I’ve been afraid of the dark, both figuratively and almost quite literally, for almost a decade now. On December 23, 2011, I got into a car I shouldn’t have gotten into. I had an experience I won’t soon forget. And there are parts of me it broke.
I spent a lot of time blaming myself for the events of that evening.
I have spent a lot of time feeling apprehensive about people and situations.
And then, one day, I got tired. I got tired of being afraid. I got tired of not feeling comfortable. Tired of feeling like someone else was in charge of my headspace, how I felt, or how I acted. So, slowly but surely I began to take ownership of all these spaces again.
Working out has always been an outlet for me, especially running. But I didn’t want to run outside anymore. I didn’t want to cross paths with anyone that I might not be able to trust. I didn’t want to possibly end up in a situation I couldn’t control. So I stuck to the treadmill for a while. Until, one day, I just felt ready. And I hit the pavement. I didn’t want to be anywhere by myself (working out or otherwise) unless it was broad daylight. I literally wouldn’t go anywhere by myself after dark. Until, one day, I just felt ready. And I went to get gas alone, after the sun dipped below the horizon.
Life since 2011 has felt like a culmination of things I couldn’t handle, until, one day, I was ready.
I’m not sure what has shifted for me in 2020. I’m not sure if I’m just really friggin sick of the hooey all the way around or if I’m just finally in a place where I’m ready to take absolute control. I think, in a lot of ways, I’m just finally ready to get out of my own way. But this year- especially the last six months-has brought me more growth than the last 3,261 days combined.
So: instead of citing the morning or lunchtime as “the only time I can fit in a workout if I want one” or spouting “I just get too hyped and can’t sleep if I workout in the evening”, I decided to get out from underneath my own pile of bullshit and face this fear that something terrible may happen to me if I am out by myself.
I bought a knife that clips to my waistband and I workout in my garage gym after the sun goes down. Every night when I’m done, I jog the block. When I’m done with that, I walk it. And I often post it to Instagram.
And here is why:
It’s to prove that I may have bent but I was never broken. It’s to prove that bad things happen sometimes but the world is not inherently bad. I really never actually thought it was. It’s to remind myself, every time I take a walk through my story archive, that I can do hard things. It’s to prove that even though I can feel stuck and incapable and afraid, I have been making slow and steady progress to being the confident, strong, not afraid of anything, take no baloney girl that used to look me in the mirror.
She’s been there all along.
It’s just time to dust her off a little bit.
I post my pictures to prove to myself that I am stronger. Every day. I am stronger than my headspace and stronger than the dark. I’m not competing with you. Or the girl next to you. I’m here for me.
So the next time you catch my Insta stories and I’m standing there in my sports bra and leggings- maybe you roll your eyes. Maybe you think “Oh boy—she’s looking for attention.” Or *maybe* you pause and think “That girl is crushing it. That girl shows up to prove that she is so much stronger than the demons that wanted to take her down.” I hope it’s the latter but that will be up to you. And, frankly, it’s no sweat off my back. I did not fight through this portion of my own nonsense to pick up someone else’s.
I do hope that this will serve as a gentle reminder not to be too harsh in your thoughts of others.
Almost everyone is fighting a battle you know nothing about.
Before you hop into a conclusion about someone, maybe pause and think of me.
Think of my fear of the “dark” and mentally shift that judgement to a congratulations.
Some of us are just trying to be stronger.